Thursday, May 31, 2007

Germaine Greer

Portrait of Germaine Greer by Polly Borland,
Click image for link to the online gallery of Borland's Portraits
of "Australians who have made a contribution to British life"

“Yet if a woman never lets herself go, how will she ever know how far she might have got? If she never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run?”
- Germaine Greer

Love this portrait. I find Greer fascinating. Beautiful, tough, agressively sexual and tremendously polarizing. Reading this interesting assortment of Encounters with Germaine Greer, it seems most anyone who has met her found her compelling. In sort of a love-hate way. The way you do with people who are wildly outspoken and at the same time preternaturally charismatic.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Life Less Ordinary

This exchange takes place in the film “A Life Less Ordinary” (which I think is HIGHLY underrated, incidentally... although it is not what this post is about):

Al: Nice-looking woman.

Robert: She isn't my type.

Al: What are you talking about? Look at yourself.You're nothing. You're nobody. You're wanted in connection with a violent crime. You're cleaning the floor of a diner. She is an intelligent, passionate, beautiful, rich woman. The issue of whether or not she's your type is not one that you're likely to have to resolve in this world... or, indeed, the next, since she will be going to some heaven for glamorous pussy, and you will be cleaning the floor of a diner in hell.

Robert: I guess so.

Al: So WHY are you even THINKING about it?

Al makes a good point, my friends.

I don’t understand men who go into a relationship with a woman and - in spite of all evidence to the contrary - assume they are in control, that they have the upper hand. As if all women are so desperate to get a rock on their finger and a warm body in their bed that men think they have some intrinsic mystical power over us. Some men seem to believe that just because they are running around with male genitalia, they are special and powerful (bad news, boys, you are one amongst millions and statistically unlikely to be the most impressive specimen to cross our paths). I have no idea why, but I meet so many women who are insecure for no good reason and so many men who are supremely confident for - again - no good reason.

We’ve all seen it - the lopsided relationship. I mean, sometimes the less attractive or less outwardly impressive of the two is also an incredible, amazing and brilliant person and the relationship ISN’T lopsided. We’re just not seeing the whole picture. But I have seen far too many women in seriously lopsided relationships just because they have no concept of their own value.

A close female friend is in a decidedly lopsided dating situation. She is pretty, intelligent, very funny and incredibly good natured. She is gainfully employed, not skinny but of a good average weight, has a nice family and tons of close and (need I say it?) fantastic friends. She is dating a man who is very short, plain, ten years older than her, earns a middle-of-the-road wage, has a weird co-dependent relationship with his ex-wife and a poorly arranged childcare plan for his 2 year old child. None of these things would be remotely relevant if he were a really great person, but he is in no way remarkable. He isn't even unusually clever. She just likes him. I don’t know why. This would be all very well and fine but for some reason he is in the driver’s seat. He dangles the possibility of making her his “official” girlfriend in front of her, he refuses to tell his ex-wife she exists, and he says he can’t introduce her to his friends because he hasn’t got any.

How does this happen? Whether this commitment phobic, blah little man deems my sweet, vivacious 20-something friend worthy of holding onto was a situation unlikely to come up in this or any other lifetime. For some bizarre reason, however, it has. And he’s wasting time telling her that he’s still thinking about it and needling her with jokes about how crazy SHE is about HIM. Like some half-mad little relationship Napoleon, he bungles all over the place, thrilled to be the conqueror and completely oblivious that she is about ten minutes away from ditching him. And what’s worse, she HASN’T ditched him already. I don’t even know which if them is crazier at this point.

Once a relationship reaches a point where it is sufficiently lopsided that either party has “the upper hand,” it is doomed. Relationships that become power struggles don’t last (unless you’re into that kind of thing and relegate it to the bedroom) or they certainly SHOULDN'T. Sure, there are minor power struggles in every aspect of everyday life, but as soon as I know that I am without a doubt in CONTROL in a dating situation OR as soon as the other person tries to exert CONTROL... well, that’s it for me.

In the meantime, I want to walk up and smack this irritating little man on the head and say, "Wake up to yourself! She's amazing. You're a schmo. Either mortgage your soul trying to keep and deserve her or go the hell away!"

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Art of Trish Grantham

© Trish Grantham

I really can't say it better than her work is described on her website, "Using a variety of media and acrylic paint on wood panels, Grantham paints a cast of doe-eyed, cartoon-like characters: Bunny, Robot-Panda, Girl, Carl the Squirrel, Think-Monster, Toast, Birds, and more populate her surfaces. The simple lines and stylized characters parallel Japanese anime, and the fantasy world they inhabit is wholly original. Appearing alternately wistful, pensive, punch-drunk, in love, or troubled, these characters play out classic themes of good versus evil, and romantic love." Wistful is a good word for it. Her gallery is full of off-kilter, subtly sweet and intrictely layered work. And her website is gorgeous.

Nancy Friday

“When I stopped seeing my mother with the eyes of a child, I saw the woman who helped me give birth to myself.”
- Nancy Friday

Friday, May 11, 2007

Motherly Advice

“When your mother asks, "Do you want a piece of advice?" it is a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no. You're going to get it anyway.”
- Erma Bombeck

A lot of the advice or guidance I have received over the years from the mothers in my life has stuck with me like little word bubbles of wisdom I carry everywhere I go. I say "mothers" plural because I was raised by my mother, my stepmother and my paternal grandmother.

I think it’s something that happens when one becomes a mother - much like the phenomena of their saliva developing the properties of a cleaning agent - mothers extol sage advice and life rules like they’ve been possessed by Confucius. Or Mister Miyagi. If he cared about baking and hemlines.

Ranging from calming words of wisdom to zinging one-liners that add to my personal neuroses, their words stick with me. Like little voices on my shoulder.

“Never apologize unless you mean it. When you say you’re sorry, remember you are also saying you are going to try to never do it again.”

“We don’t have much, but there are people who have it harder than we do. It’s our duty to help people who are in greater need than we are.”

“Fix your bra strap. It’s tacky to let your bra strap show.”

“Consider how you would feel in the other person’s place.”

“Women should always wear hats. Men find a woman in a hat mysterious.”

“Wake up to yourself.”

“A lady wears the same scent at all times. Her scent is her signature.”

“Can you do anything about it? Is it something you have control over? Well, then don’t worry about it.”

"Nothing will make your house smell better than freshly baked homemade bread."

“Don’t forget your siblings. Whatever else happens, you have each other.”

“It’s a tremendous advantage in this life to be able to speak well. Not everyone has the knack for it. You do. Take advantage of it.”

"How clothing fits makes all the difference in the world."

“Sometimes the best relationships are the ones where you’re NOT head-over-heels.”

“Prepare things ahead of time - don’t spend your whole party in the kitchen away from your guests.”

“A sense of humor is important. You don’t want to spend your life with someone who doesn’t have a sense of humor.”

“Take care of your parents. They took care of you.”

(My grandmother said this one, obviously.)

“You have to be able to laugh at yourself.”

“Remember where you came from.”

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Waterproof Headgear

“When my mother found my diaphragm,
I told her it was a bathing cap for my cat.”
- Liz Winston

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

“Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
- Elizabeth Stone

Yesterday someone I know got a phone call from a friend to pass along terrible news. The son of a mutual aquaintance was killed while serving in Iraq. My friend has a son the same age. He's a headstrong young man and a constant source of frustration for his parents. Stunned at the awful news, she went in to check on him. As is typical, he was still sleeping in his bed although it was late in the morning. Returning to the kitchen, all she could think to say (with a strange sense of relief instead of the usual irritation) was, "Ours is asleep in his bed."

It must be a constant conflict for the parents of a young adult. To want them to go into the world and become something, but to fear the danger that can come with that.

I can only imagine.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mom Knows Everything

“I found out why cats drink out of the toilet. My mother told me it's because the water is cold in there. And I'm like, how did my mother know that?”
- Wendy Liebman

The kitty in the photo is named Riley. He (and this photo) belong to The Goddess Kristin and her hubby. I don't know them, but I have included a link to their website if you click the photo (more funny photos of Riley).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.”
- Maya Angelou

My mom is wonderful and amazing and I adore her. So do my sisters. So I want you to understand that the following story is related with the utmost respect for my mother, perfect hurricane that she can be. She has raised more children than I would ever have agreed to, earned a Master's Degree in her chosen field, takes amazing care of my grumpy and rapidly aging grandparents and completely redecorated her house five times in the last year. She is a force of nature. She loves her kids no matter what stupid crap we do. She makes a killer baked mac and cheese and can guide you through roasting the perfect turkey via phone across thousands of miles WHILE making her own Thanksgiving dinner. She is not a woman to be trifled with. But let's face it, no matter how much you love your mother, she is also one of the people most capable of making you crazy (...she is, incedentally, in this respect just like your sisters).

My sister is going to miss a family event because she already has a plane ticket to visit a friend for the weekend in question. The (expensive) plane ticket was purchased for her by that friend as a gift BEFORE we had any idea when the family event was taking place. This has necessitated a great many phone calls, emails and confusing messages betwixt my sister and parents. It has also resulted in my father calling to make sure I will DEFINITELY be in attendance, well, roughly 243 times at last count.

The following is a slightly edited version of my sister's last phone conversation with mom. I don't know about everyone else out there, but when my mom wants you to do something she knows that nothing works like guilt. Just like homemade apple pie and comfort food casseroles - this is something NO ONE can make the way that mom does.

(The dog's name has been removed to protect the innocent as the dog is in no way responsible for the following.)

So my sister calls mom and says...

Sis: Hey! I was thinking of coming to visit since I start my new job next week.

Mom: Well, we're very busy with [blameless dog]’s medical problems. But it WOULD be nice to see you.

Sis: I thought that since I can't come to [family event], I should try and see you before I'm tied up at the new job.

Mom: It’s a shame you can't come. I mean, the date HAS been set for a year.

Sis: You told me about it a month ago.  And then you said no one was going.

Mom: Well, you know it’s important to your father. He was counting on you coming.

Sis: How was I supposed to KNOW? If it was such a big deal, why wasn't I told the dates?

Mom: Don't worry about it. I'm sure he's not angry with you.

Sis: What?!?

Mom: I know you and [your friend] are close, but this is your family.


Mom: It's not MY thing. It's your Dad's.
I don't care.

Sis: ...

Mom: I suppose if you want to visit I could transfer some money into your account for gas.

Sis: I didn't call to ask for money. I just wanted to let you know I was coming up tomorrow.

Mom: We have a new sleeper couch! You can stay with us!

Sis: Well, I talked to [my sister], maybe I could split the nights.

Mom: If you think that's a good idea. Our house is full with your brother in town.

Sis: Okay, so I'll stay with her. She offered to help with gas, so I'll be in good shape.

Mom: Well, I can transfer some money later today.

Sis: I. Did. Not. Call. About. Money.

Mom: Hey, did I give you [insert movie title here] for Christmas?

Sis: Yes.

Mom: I saw part of it on tv, can you bring it?

Sis: The DVDs aren't unpacked, but I'll look.

Mom: (suddenly rushed) I have to go, I'm at the store. I'll talk to you soon. Love you!

Sis: Love you too.

It is important to note that in this one conversation Mom manages to be passive-agressive, apply liberal amounts of guilt, use my sister's fear of disappointing our father, semi-accuse my sister of only calling because she needs money, give and then recind an offer of sleeping space, make a rapid subject change to end the discussion AND suddenly become too busy to talk. She is a talented woman, Mom is. I think if she could get away with it she would do the whole, "(ffffttttttt bzzzzzz fffftttttt) I'm sorry you're breaking up. (ffffttttttt bzzzzzz fffftttttt) I can't hear you..." routine when she's tired of talking and just hang up.

Now, from my mother's point of view this phone conversation sounded COMPLETELY different. To my mother, it involved my sister being unreasonable and wanting gas money and not being sufficiently concerned about my father's feelings. It probably had not only different punctuation but entirely different content. I realize that. But I can't help it. I think it's HI-LAR-ious. I nearly peed I was laughing so hard about this - I have had THIS EXACT SAME conversation with my mom about something or another (hasn't everyone?).

Conversations like this are the reason that, when I watch Home for the Holidays, I think of my family. You love them. And they're insane. And they make YOU crazy. That's why they're family.

May, by the way, is mother month here at Dame. For the obvious reason.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Dorothy Canfield Fisher

“It is not good for all our wishes to be filled; through sickness we recognize the value of health; through evil, the value of good; through hunger, the value of food; through exertion, the value of rest.”
- Dorothy Canfield Fisher

I have spent my day being reminded of the value of health. It's true, though, isn't it? When you are miserably ill you are reminded how wonderful it is to be healthy - to have no pain, to have ready use of your body. It is so easy to take simple things like the ability to get out of bed in the morning for granted, to forget to find joy in them.